Finding Alice

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“Every time I close my eyes
It’s like a dark paradise
No one compares to you
But there’s no you,
Except in my dreams tonight.”
-Lana Del Rey

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28. Chapter Twenty-Eight

Time in Wonderland was the only thing Jefferson could never get the hang of. He spent most of his days trying to keep Alice safe until he could get her close enough to the portal to push her through. He barely noticed the change at all. She grew tired quicker than usual. And then running and changing camps every night was no longer possible. She spent an entire week so sick that Jefferson had to carry her to the hare’s burrow to beg for a place to stay until she recovered. The hare set them up in an uncomfortably small bedroom below ground. He brought them food that he promised wouldn’t make her grow or shrink, but instead to satiate her illness.

Just like that, she was back on her feet. Jefferson tried to stay as close to the portal as possible, but the Queen’s guard was on constant patrol. He wasn’t ready to die just yet. He still had a small flicker of hope that they’d find a way to get home. He was almost glad he hadn’t gotten her out yet just so he could spend those last moments with her.

Until the day he noticed her body was growing. Where he was from, it took months for a woman’s body to grow with child. But they weren’t in the Enchanted Forest anymore. He noticed when she started wearing looser clothes, but he hadn’t questioned it. It was easier to run in them, and he knew her illness made her uncomfortable. But at night when they were lying in the hare’s spare bedroom, he watched as she lay beside him.

The bed was too small for both of them to share, but he wouldn’t leave her side. No matter how much more comfortable they’d be. She had one of her knees up against the wall, and the other foot draped over the end of the bed. Her hand rested on her stomach as she hummed to herself, eyes closed. It was unmistakably round. He reached out to put his hand on it, feeling the solidness of her womb. It was too soon for her to grow so quickly. They couldn’t have been in Wonderland more than a month.

He hadn’t thought about how Wonderland’s odd time might affect her growth. Nothing else ever seemed to age or grow. At the very least, he’d expected a full nine months. But Wonderland had different rules, as she said, and so did time.

Her hand fell over his.

“I’m surprised it took you this long to notice,” she remarked.

“Why didn’t you tell me?” he asked, nestling into her side and resting his head against her waist. She ran her fingers through his messy dark hair.

“I didn’t want to worry you. You’ve already been so troubled and distant. I didn’t want you to think we were running out of time.”

He wanted to beg her to go back through the portal. To allow the child to grow the way it was supposed to. So that they could both live. Even if it meant they had to be a widow and a fatherless child. He’d been biding his time getting around to it. He never considered that they might have to bring a child through the portal on top of everything else. A child born in Wonderland, no less.

He wasn’t ready to die yet, but now he had no choice. He had to get her through before the baby could be born in that place. He didn’t know what the Queen would do to them if she found out. He might never be able to give them luxury, but he could give them his life.

“I feel it move sometimes,” she told him. He wasn’t surprised considering how much she’d already grown. “I know you’re afraid—and that you don’t want to talk about it. But I thought we might come up with a name. Don’t you think?”

She was right; he didn’t want to talk. He wasn’t given much time to come to terms with impending fatherhood. They’d talked about it, of course, but it always felt so far away. Even when they’d made definite plans. It wasn’t supposed to happen this fast and with the likelihood of him never getting to meet his child.

“Do you have any suggestions?” she asked.

“The only name that means anything to me is yours,” he admitted, shutting his eyes and mumbling into her belly. It shook as she laughed.

“I don’t think Alice the Second is really quite what I had in mind. I never liked the idea of a Junior either. Before you get that idea into your head.”

“Why not? Jefferson Junior. We could call him JJ.” He smiled up at her, ignoring the heaviness in his heart. He’d never know the baby, let alone call it by name. But if he could give it its name—he’d at least have that. He could die with that. She only smiled and rolled her eyes.

“For a boy,” he started, “we could name him after your brother.”

“John?”

“Yes.”

“Would you be happy with that?”

“I think I could.”

“But you never knew John. He means nothing to you.”

“No one means anything to me except for you. And you already said Alice the Second is out of the question. I know you loved your brother.” She was silent as she continued to run her fingers through his hair. He shut his eyes and rested against her again.

“John is nice,” she finally agreed. “And if it’s a girl?”

“Dinah?” She laughed again, shaking her whole belly.

“After my cat?”

“Why not? She was your best friend for a time, wasn’t she?”

“How about we try something original? Something unique to the child. And not in memory of siblings or pets.”

The only woman who’d ever meant anything to him besides Alice was his mother. And the last time he’d seen her, she called him a disgrace and said she never wanted to see him again. Alice wanted something original anyway. Something that belonged to the child alone.

Her laugh seemed to have woken the baby in her belly. He felt it move beneath his hand. Something twitched under her skin. Then it thumped a few more times in small, graceful kicks. Like a little dancer.

“Did you feel that?” she questioned. He smiled and tried to hold back the raw emotion that was threatening to fill his eyes with tears. It was probably the only chance he had to bond with his child, and he didn’t want to waste it. He’d never know if they were having a John or a….

“Yes,” he told her. “And I think—if it’s a girl—I think we should call her Grace.”

She ran her fingers through his hair, and he laid there holding her close, feeling her warmth and the squiggle of their baby thumping around inside her body.

“Grace,” she said quietly. “I like that.”

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